How personalization shapes the retail industry

Cody Davis via Unsplash

Note from the editor

As consumer data becomes more readily available, a host of new opportunities (and missteps) has opened up for retailers that want to tap into the potential of rich shopper data. And on the top of that list is personalization.

Personalization is a versatile tool. For marketers, it means being able to better target sales offers and advertisements — using data about a customer's previous purchases and search history to inform what they might be looking for next. For retailers, it can mean everything from offering curated product recommendations to tailoring stores and larger branding to a specific demographic.

For the shopper, personalization is something different entirely. It's the feeling that a product was made specifically for them or the sense that a brand knows them well enough as an individual to send along only the most relevant products and offers. The relationship between shopper and retailer becomes much more like a conversation between friends — at least that's the idea.

As the pandemic hit retail, the conversation around personalization changed slightly. In some ways, it became less important, as retailers shelved marketing efforts to focus on simply surviving. In others, however, personalization was as much at the forefront as ever. DTC brands flew to greater heights as consumers moved online, and many well-positioned brands were able to gain share by targeting new consumers with timely products. Retailers like Nike also continued to expand store concepts that rely on personalization to drive the experience. 

Marketers throughout all of retail likely felt they were personalizing brand messages to the masses, oxymoron though it sounds, as systemic racism and safety threats from COVID-19 impacted consumer sentiment and made traditional messaging impossible. In the pieces you see below, we explore personalization from many angles, including:

  • How retailers are targeting specific demographics, like Gen Z and millennials, with unique marketing efforts

  • The store concepts that are putting data first

  • How successful data collection and personalization efforts really are for retailers

  • The individual ways certain retailers are creating personalized shopping experiences

We hope you enjoy our curated selection of stories exploring all the different ways personalization is shaping the retail space.

Cara Salpini Senior Editor

How Nike is using DTC and data to expand its empire

Since 2011, the sportswear giant has grown direct-to-consumer sales from 16% of its namesake brand revenues to 35%, all while continuing to take share.

• Published March 23, 2021

Forrester: Few brands can anticipate and act on consumer needs

• Published Feb. 10, 2021

Algorithms vs. humans: Who's better at predicting fashion trends?

These days data is plentiful, useful and fast. But some in the industry warn that old fashioned merchants are undervalued at a crucial time.

• Published April 29, 2021

The new toy store experience

Toys R Us went bankrupt years ago and hasn't really been replaced. Here's how others are designing experiences for a digitally enabled generation.

• Published July 15, 2021

Nike's expansion of small-format Nike Live stores pushes localization and digital

• Published Jan. 22, 2021

Marketers play it safe as pandemic's effects linger

Industry leaders are pinning their hopes on a better year in 2021, but experts say marketing likely won't return to normal anytime soon.

• Published Feb. 10, 2021

Saks Fifth Avenue relaunches website with emphasis on personalization

• Published Nov. 2, 2020

Is the DTC brand aesthetic bad for business?

Sans serif font and bright colored backgrounds are hallmarks of digitally native brands, but it may not matter if they all look the same.

• Published Nov. 16, 2020

Will virtual fitting rooms push Walmart to the fashion forefront?

The big-box retailer and other brands have joined the space in hopes consumers find the perfect fit before purchase.

• Published June 24, 2021

Dick's debuts experiential House of Sport store concept

• Published April 5, 2021

The era of personalization in retail

With the abundance of consumer data available today, retailers can personalize the customer experience from first impression to their latest purchase. Personalization has now become fundamental for retailers to build long-lasting customer relationships, stand out from the competition and access new markets.

included in this trendline
  • Nike's expansion of small-format Nike Live stores pushes localization and digital
  • Companies face a 'paradox' between digital personalization and data privacy
  • What the pandemic has cemented about Gen Z
Our Trendlines go deep on the biggest trends. These special reports, produced by our team of award-winning journalists, help business leaders understand how their industries are changing.
Davide Savenije Editor-in-Chief at Industry Dive.